The ideas about labour are changing
Lodewijk Wijngaard studied Human Resources and joined Boskalis in 2007 as HR manager in the Middle East after working for an offshore contractor with a lot of pleasure (‘These things happen. You put on a coat and think: it fits like a glove.’). Lodewijk Wijngaard has been taking up the challenges of this great job at Boskalis for twelve years now. Theo Wanders, the owner and founder of iPS, tipped him off for this position at the time. An interview about his career and the challenges in his field of expertise
How did you end up in your current position?
‘I started in the Middle East, where I worked as an HR manager for Boskalis in a large project organisation. It was the best introduction I could have wished for. I was introduced to the world of dredging in its full splendour, something quite different from the offshore world I
knew. On my return in the Netherlands, I became responsible for the Crewing Department. There was much HR work to be done at the human level as well as at the strategic level. After I had been seconded to Australia and following an integration programme from the Smit company that had just been taken over, I contributed to the establishment of a new division structure within Boskalis. Since 2015, I have been responsible as an HR director for the Dredging and Inland Infra division. It’s a division with about 4,500 colleagues world-wide.’
Quite a career!
‘Well, I always look at it from a simple perspective: I do the things that are really me. I think it’s a very nice sector, in which, in my case, HR is right in the middle of the business. Additionally, I have an operational responsibility. In my HR team, we are responsible for the Pool Operations. These are colleagues who execute the projects all around the
globe. So I am very close to the business. This is just my thing, and it gives much variation in influence and contribution. Actually, I am a bit allergic to playing merely an advisory part. You need to find real challenges, and that’s what this company offers.’
Is Boskalis also affected by the tight labour market?
‘Definitely. But I hasten to add that it depends on how you define the labour market. We have the luxury that we can focus on the whole world. The drawback is that dredging and infra are niche markets. Not everybody in the world has heard about dredging. In the Netherlands, this is different of course. Before long, we are starting with a new
labour market campaign at Boskalis by which we want to increase our presence in the international labour market more explicitly. The labour market is changing. Highly qualified people have much choice, and
in this respect the younger generation has other preferences than the older generation does. I think we are on the brink of change when it comes to how this generation looks at work and challenges and with it how they look at the work/private life ratio. The younger generation is independent, they set their own course based on the idea that the things they do have to be fun and purposeful. Realising the long-term objective of our organisation is not always included in these ambitions.
Maybe this was different in the old days.’
What can Boskalis offer this generation?
‘Quite a lot, so we say: “Join us!” Of course we know we have to try even
harder to retain them, so we monitor our company culture and their development closely. My idea: pay close attention to your employees and colleagues, have an eye for their personal and professional development. Boskalis will also have to get used to it that although you invest
heavily in people and their development there is always a chance that they leave after some time, because there is a more exciting job or a living environment that suits them better elsewhere.’
Should we communicate with the labour market in a different way?
‘Certainly. The ideas about labour are changing. Future employees are perhaps less interested in regular and flexible employment contracts but more in what they can do with us. So in this respect we also have to communicate to the labour market that we are a project organisation and that the things we do are often ground-breaking. If you want to be a player in this, come to us. Look at the regular and temporary jobs we have. Apply if you are interested.
Can you manage filling white-collar vacancies?
‘Until recently, we focused on the Netherlands, but we also need to
look at Europe and the rest of the world. This applies to both office and
operational staff positions. We enter into partnerships with universities abroad insufficiently, so we will have to devote much time and energy to this. These matters do not take care of themselves.’
What do you expect from a partner like iPS?
‘As a company Boskalis aims to grow its offshore installation activities: wind farms for instance and everything associated with it. There is a lot of potential in this, so we have to adjust our organisation and bring in the required competencies. With iPS and other parties we work together in the field of staffing, focused on our project organisation. They have added value for our recruiters in exploring the market and have to
be sharp and act fast. If you have your network into focus, you have an edge on the competition.’
Does Boskalis use any new recruitment methods?
‘Social media is used of course, as well as referral recruitment. Don’t forget that we have 1,500 potential recruiters at our campus in Papendrecht. We organised a ‘hunting night’ recently, with pizza. A
group of young colleagues who had just started at Boskalis called people from their own circle that night. This caused a tremendous amount of activity. Our recruitment department comes up with actions like these. I think it’s brilliant! That’s the nice thing about Boskalis: employees are proud of our company and love to pass it on to potential candidates. We have to cherish this.’